Major League Baseball is now knee-deep in its annual winter meetings. The former Florida Marlins (now the Miami Yankees—ahem, Marlins) are making a bigger splash than a fish off the coast of South Beach.
Albert Pujols is going somewhere, or staying somewhere, for the next 10 or so years. Jose Reyes got paid, Hanley Ramirez got mad, and star free agent Prince Fielder is mostly missing from the headlines.
This is baseball's worst nightmare, though, to be honest. The NFL is doing what the NFL does, captivating the minds of every sports fan ages three to three hundred, and basketball is back. The NBA's ensuing free-agent frenzy, opening of training camp, and Christmas Day bonanza are exactly what baseball doesn't want.
So although we may not be aware of it, our favorite baseball teams' GMs, scouts, managers, and even players are somewhere right now doing their job. Finding that new fifth starter, working on taking an outside pitch "oppo" and projecting their 2012 possibilities.
Every team will make moves this offseason, and here are the biggest moves each team will regret making (or not making).
Houston finished the 2011 season 56-106, undoubtedly the worst team in baseball. The Astros should feel revamped by the new uniforms, new division, new league and new owner.
They're now members of the semi-competitive American League West, where they will regularly butt heads with their in-state rival the Texas Rangers. Texas, who as we're all aware, have had some postseason success of late and have the attention of baseball fans deep in the heart of Texas.
The 'Stros have yet to make a move this offseason and will regret it if they don't cough up some dough and go after someone—anyone. The team is clearly in need of help offensively, defensively and on the mound. If they don't try to sign a middle-of-the-pack starter, or a quick outfielder, their fans (new and old) will see it as a sign of familiarity.
Not how ownership wants to start its tenure.
The Twins finished 2011 63-99, last place in the American League. In all of baseball, they had the fourth-worst on-base percentage, and the third-worst slugging percentage.
A team that finished 36 games under .500 needs help throughout the clubhouse, but there offensive numbers were beyond bleak. Chalk it up to the poor health of Justin Morneau and the inconsistency of Joe Mauer, but the whole team didn't get it done.
Outfielders Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer have been Twins for their entire careers (Kubel for seven years, Cuddyer for 10). Both guys play solid defense, hit over .270 this year and have consistent pop in their bats.
Despite the report from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the Twins have to re-sign both of their outfielders. Both guys have been "Twins for life," and that shouldn't change. There are no viable replacements for either guy on the market, nor are the replacements affordable.
The Twins will regret losing either guy, especially both.
Keeping with the regular-season records trend, the Mariners were baseball's third-worst team last season, finishing 67-95.
Speaking of trends, the poor offense trend is a fun one to run with. They were dead last in all of baseball in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 2011. That's how you spell trouble.
The Mariners need to make several moves this offseason—and fast. They need to eat some salary and trade Chone Figgins while potentially adjusting the deals of their stars (Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki).
King Felix would have to make more, but these financial moves could overall free up some money so they can go after guys like Ian Stewart, Carlos Guillen and maybe even a big fish like Prince Fielder. First things first, though, for Seattle—lose the dead weight, and reevaluate your finances.
If they do none of this, they will regret it for several years to come.
The better the teams get, the less moves they will need to make this offseason. Granted the Orioles were baseball's fourth-worst team last year from a regular-season record standpoint, I don't think they're that far off.
We all remember their hot finish to 2010 and their hot start to 2011. They have one of the game's brightest minds in the dugout, Buck Showalter, and talent all over the field. A lineup that consists of guys like Mark Reynolds, J.J.Hardy, Nick Markakis an Adam Jones isn't too far off. Especially when you couple the line up with a young pitching staff anchored by Jeremy Guthrie and Zach Britton.
The Orioles need to find a couple guys to plug into their rotation or bullpen, something Showalter feels is a real priority. They should search within to avoid spending hefty amounts of money that should be saved for the young talent they already have.
If they don't find an arm or two, they will upset their manager and regret it for quite some time.
The Padres found themselves either third- or second-to-last in every major offensive category in 2011. It manifested itself in the record, they finished the season 71-91.
They lost their closer, All-Star Heath Bell to the Miami Marlins but replaced him today with former Rockies closer Huston Street. This was a good start for the Padres this offseason, but let's face it, you finish 20 games under .500, you need to do more than replace your closer.
Improvements could be made to the back end of their starting rotation, which is anchored by Matt Latos and Aaron Harang but falls apart after that. Jamie Moyer is available, and probably for a decent price. A veteran presence in the clubhouse would do the Padre staff some good.
Offensively they are in shambles. Ryan Ludwick led the team with 11 home runs and 64 RBI—numbers that are hard to fathom, let alone believe, as being team-leading figures. They need to go after a bunch of guys, but finding someone with a little power that plays a corner infield position would be a good start.
If the Padres don't find themselves a starter or a new piece for the offense, they will be in real trouble.
The Cubs finished 71-91 last year, and at times it was way uglier than the record would lead you to believe. They're such a historic and captivating franchise that every offseason the "what if" talks start.
This offseason the questions were answered early on. The Cubs already found themselves a new team president of baseball operations, general manager and manager. Now Cubs fans need to just sit back and let Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer do their thing.
As I'm sure Epstein knows, the Cubs are in no position to make a serious push toward contention immediately. They need to work this offseason with what they have both at the major league level and in the minors. Sure up the farm system, work with the guys on the major league club and mold Starlin Castro into the star he is sure to be.
The Cubs have talent in guys like Carlos Pena, Geovany Soto, Aramis Ramirez and Castro. They could do without Alfonso Soriano and his contract, but they could overdo it this offseason and end up regretting that in the big picture. Patience is a virtue for the Cubs this offseason.
I don't even know where to start with the Kansas City Royals. For as long as I've been a baseball fan (nearly 15 years) they have been a franchise in flux. A bottom-feeder and an easy "two out of three" series for teams that had them coming up on their schedule.
They have some bright spots throughout their roster despite the 71-91 record. Former Yankee Melky Cabrera had a good year offensively combined with the efforts of Alex Gordon and Billy Butler the Royals offense sparked and caught fire at times throughout the year although they will be further tested seeing the loss of Cabrera who was traded to the Giants in early November.
Inconsistencies and a lack of solid pitching wound up hurting the Royals in the end. Their best pitcher of the 2011 season, Luke Hochevar went 11-11 with only 128 strikeouts, and an ERA north of 4.00.
The Royals should look for affordable starting pitching this off season and try making moves during the Rule 5 Draft at the end of the winter meetings. Not capitalizing on a top-10 offense will be a regret that haunts the royals for years to come.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were the feel good story of the MLB season for a couple of months until the wheels fell off the wagon and their immaturity and youth kicked in and they finished the season 72-90.
The Pirates sense success in the future and are already acting on it. They went out and signed left-handed starter Erik Bedard and outfielder Nate McClouth. Not stopping there, they are in talks with Derrek Lee about a potential return to "the burgh".
Their roster is loaded with young talent highlighted by Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen offensively and with the addition of Bedard to their pitching rotation they should be in good shape moving forward.
The Pirates may not have many regrets this season but just to be sure, they should try to play spoiler and disrupt whatever moves their NL Central competition plan to make.
The Florida Marlins are now officially the Miami Marlins. The franchise has a new logo, new uniforms, a new stadium, and apparently new money. Not complacent with the 72-90 finish of 2011, they have come out firing this offseason.
They have signed Padres closer Heath Bell, White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, and Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. They also have Hanley Ramirez who either stays and learns to be happy, or stays unhappy and leaves via trade (meaning the Marlins could be acquiring more talent).
Sources say they are out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes but Prince Fielder is hiding out there somewhere, and so is C.J. Wilson. I can't think of much more Miami needs to do this off season but if things don't work out for whatever reason, there biggest regret could wind up being spending so much money so soon.
The Rockies really fell apart down the stretch in 2011, finishing in third place in the NL West. Figuring out what went wrong for the Rockies during 2011 is easier said than done.
Their offense is lead by Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos "CarGo" Gonzalez. The rest of their lineup is sprinkled with talent with names like Todd Helton, Dexter Fowler, Mark Ellis, and Seth Smith. Minus Tulowitzki and Gonzalez the offensive output was inconsistent throughout the season.
The pitching staff needs a serious overhaul however. There most wins came from Jhoulys Chacin, he only had 11 and the team had a combined ERA well north of 4.00.
The Rockies need to search far and wide for some form of pitching relief this offseason. Whether it comes from their farm system or from outside the ball club they need to sure up their staff while their offense is young and potent.
The Athletics finished the season 74-88, third in the AL West. They, like most of the teams discussed thus far, didn't underachieve nor did they overachieve.
They were in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories and thanks to guys like Josh Willingham the teams offense was at times, potent.
Many teams this off season have shown interest in the Athletics most promising star, left-hander Gio Gonzales. The Phillies, Tigers, Yankees, and now Marlins have expressed interest in Gio.
If the Athletics are going to keep Gio, good for them; but if they are going to lose Gonzalez in a trade this winter, they need to market him well and draw the price up. If they don't get a great return on their end, they'll regret it for months to come.
This one is pretty easy. The Mets underachieved again, as they have consistently for nearly a decade, finishing 77-85.
Despite the move into the new stadium, Citi Field, and the financial issues engulfing the team, they had a roster full of big names and talent that simply could not get the job done.
The biggest regret they will have this off season, no matter what moves they make the rest of the way, will be losing Jose Reyes to the Marlins. A franchise in a place like the Mets cannot afford to lose their stars, just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Reyes-less Mets can relate to this one all too well. Long time White Sox starter Mark Buehrle signed with the Miami Marlins this week. Couple that with the loss of their closer Sergio Santos via trade to Toronto, and the 79-83 White Sox are in quite a pickle.
New manager Robin Ventura and general manager Kenny Williams are hopefully both on the same page when it comes to the rebuilding process because it is often times a long one in baseball.
Losing their number one starter and their closer for nothing more than a minor league catcher may not seem like the end of the world at the moment but the White Sox will regret letting them both go so easily.
We have now turned the corner from teams that were utter disasters, or minor disappointments to teams that came up just short. Cincinnati finished the season 80-82 missing the playoffs despite all the talent on their team from top to bottom.
Cincinnati find themselves in a curious position because they are not too far off from being a dominant force (they won their division in 2010). However given the strength of the NL Central they cannot sit idly by this off season without strengthening their team.
According to Jon Heyman the Reds are very interested in trading for Atlanta's star pitching phenom Jair Jurrjens. A move like this would bolster their team for many years to come and now that word is out to the Reds fans of intent, not making the move will be a big regret for much of the future.
Cleveland finished out the season 80-82 and just like Cincinnati they did what they could with what they had. There were minor bumps along the road but they weren't too much of a let down.
Indians fans should rejoice however as the notion that general manager Chris Antonetti said recently,
"I expect we'd get something done. Whether it's a minor-league free-agent signing or something else. We have a handful of actual trade proposals out there right now. There are a couple that are up to us and are a handful that are up to the other teams."
The Indians shouldn't sit back and be complacent given the strength of the American League and the central itself however a minor league transaction may not be a big enough splash. With marquee names on the table and Antonetti at the winter meetings, the Indians need to pull the trigger somehow.
The Nationals really came together as a team at the end of last season making an impressive run (at nothing unfortunately) building confidence and momentum entering 2012. They wound up 80-81.
With a young team on each of the four club levels, and talent galore, the Nationals are in a good position. They have Stephen Strassburg returning from Tommy John surgery sometime this coming summer and they have Bryce Harper, the baseball crushing machine, developing more on a daily basis.
General Manager Mike Rizzo spoke at the winter meetings about how the Nationals aren't comfortable where they are. Despite missing out on Mark Buehrle the Nats may pursue Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, and Adam Jones.
Not making a move this off season to compliment their youth and athleticism would be a big mistake they cannot afford to make.
The Blue Jays finished the 2011 season right at .500, and given the hefty competition they face on almost a nightly basis, you can't fault them.
We all know about their new star Joey "Bats" Bautista and the electrifying numbers he has now put up two seasons in a row, but they also have a talented closer in Frank Francisco and a bright star in the rotation with Ricky Romero.
The Blue Jays made a move they won't regret this week, bringing back Kelly Johnson via arbitration and thanks to the teams payroll increasing for what will be third consecutive season, they have a lot of options ahead of them.
Their biggest regret will be not making a move because in the ultra competitive AL East, you have no choice but to improve every winter.
The Dodgers made an incredible run at the end of the season to salvage their reputations and give the fans (what few were in attendance) something to smile about. They finished the season 82-79 thanks to Cy Young Clayton Kershaw and MVP (sorry Braun, you didn't deserve it) Matt Kemp.
The Dodgers had one of the toughest years in franchises history that stretched beyond their on the field blunders. The opening day beating of a visiting San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow marred the team throughout the season as Stow lay in ICU for months. Couple that with the former owner Frank McCourt's lack of finances and lack of dignity and you get yourself one crazy situation.
The Dodgers hope for a bright light at the end of the tunnel however, young prospect's Dee Gordon and Jerry Sands showed signs of growth last season and they will be bringing back Kershaw, Kemp, and a healthy Andre Eithier.
The biggest concern the team has this off season is restructuring both Kershaw and Eithier's deals to lock them in for years to come. Other than that, until the ownership situation is resolved, the team's hands are tied. Can't regret much if you can't do much. Sorry Dodger fans.
The Giants, despite finishing 86-76, were one of the league's biggest letdowns of 2011. The unfortunate loss of young catching phenom Buster Posey really prohibited their success early on in the season and things spiraled out of control from there.
The dominant pitching they rode to a World Series victory in 2010 just wasn't quite the same this time around. Add injuries and inconsistency to the mix and you have a recipe for not as much success as is expected of you.
The pitching staff will hopefully turn it around in 2012, seeing such dominance on a nightly basis will be good for the Giants and baseball. The Giants can still smell the success they had as recently as October of 2010 and have not sad idly by this postseason.
They traded for outfielder Melky Cabrera and just sent Andres Torres to the Mets freeing up some cap space. The Giants need to continue to make moves here and there throughout the winter to bolster their depleted lineup. Not pushing themselves to succeed, will be a big regret down the road.
The Angels were one of baseball's sneaky teams in 2011. Hard to figure out every night they took the field. At times the team looked spectacular and at times they looked lost. They ultimately finished the season 86-76.
They did a lot of things well all year long thanks to veteran leadership, young talent, and of course Mike Scoscia. That won't stop them from making moves this offseason however.
They are obviously interested in the sweepstakes for Albert Pujols and a lot of people think they are the favorite to land Prince Fielder when the time comes. I personally wouldn't count them out of any free agent race this offseason.
If they don't make a move and reel in a marquee superstar, they will be in trouble and regret it for much of the future.
The Braves collapse at the end of the season has still gone undervalued because of the collapse of the Boston Red Sox and the media frenzy that followed. How happy must the Braves players and management been when the stories about "beer, fried chicken, and video games" come out?
The Braves had the Wild Card locked up in the National League with about a month to go in the season and then saw their security blanket vanish and they can at least say they lost the spot to the World Series champions.
This off season the Braves almost have to do something to satisfy fans and the media. After such a meltdown they cannot simply return the same five starters and eight line up guys. There are trade rumors regarding Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, and Jason Heyward.
Each of those players leaving Atlanta would be surprising but each of those players have stock that has risen in other general manager's eyes. Not shipping some of their guys off for fresh new legs would be a big mistake.
Where do we begin? The Sox finished the season 90-72 on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Had they not started miserably and finished pitifully they could have been a 110 win team. They were a disaster down the stretch.
They already lost their closer, and most consistent player, Jonathan Papelbon, and they lost their general manager (the man pulling the strings all these years, and pulling them well if you ask me) Theo Epstein. What's worse is that they also fired their manager Terry Francona.
I didn't agree with the Francona firing whatsoever. No disrespect to Bobby Valentine but Francona was not to blame for the meltdown in September in my opinion. He was a players manager, a fans manager, and a good guy that represented the organization in a positive light.
The Red Sox will regret letting him go, whether it's sooner or later.
As unfathomable as the Braves collapse was, the Cardinals run was just as remarkable. They did the impossible down the stretch sneaking into the postseason at 90-72 where they did what baseball teams need to do in October, catch fire. They stayed on fire through the World Series.
Usually a defending World Series champion isn't on the hot seat St. Louis finds itself on, but they may be losing Albert Pujols. I'm sure they're trying not to think about that and in the meantime they are working on resigning Octavio Dotel and offering up Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse in trades.
If Albert Pujols signs somewhere other than St. Louis, the Cardinals will regret it for the rest of their franchises history. Nothing else this off season in St. Louis matters.
The Rays made the same run St. Louis made towards the end of the regular season unfortunately for them, it ended well shy of a World Series championship.
With an impressive pitching staff, quality defensive players, and a solid team mentality led by manager of the year Joe Maddon they won 91 games last season.
They haven't done much at the winter meetings thus far but clubs no they have an interest in losing B.J. Upton, which became even more clear when they declared interest in Josh Willingham.
The Rays don't have to do anything given their impressive farm system, unbeatable manager, and the players general belief in the ball club. If they make a move believe it or not they may come to regret it later on. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
The Diamondbacks may have been the league's most pleasant surprise of 2011. Taking their division by storm they finished the season with 94 wins (the biggest turn around in league history from the year before) and they had Cy Young and MVP sleepers leading the way for them all season.
They made a good playoff run while it lasted coming up just short against the Milwaukee Brewers, but their endearing love of the long ball with three men on base captivated baseball fans everywhere.
This off season they have seemed fairly content with the state of affairs in their clubhouse although they have expressed interest in Gio Gonzalez in addition to Ian Stewart.
Like the Tampa Bay Rays however, I think the D'Backs biggest regret would be making a move. They have a young team that meshed perfectly under Kirk Gibson and the Arizona sun and they shouldn't tinker with it, not yet.
We've reached the point where the teams are good from top to bottom.
Solid pitching staffs, defensive bullpens, and well built lineups that pack a punch throughout. Good management upstairs and in the dugout. That's the Detroit Tigers.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski described the winter meetings this year as a "lull period" for his team although they are close to signing reliever Octavio Dotel.
The Tigers needs to sit tight and do the little things to keep the guys they already have happy this off season. They re the best team in their division and the only regrets they will have are making moves to force something that doesn't need to be forced.
Remember how badly the Cardinals would regret losing Albert Pujols? Enter the Milwaukee Brewers a franchise that may never recover from something they are pretending won't even happen.
The Brewers had an amazing 2011, they had two of the top three MVP vote getters, the best home fans in the league, a solid pitching staff, and they were arrogant confident and fun.
They are days away from losing their biggest star, and best player, Prince Fielder. No Prince means no Ryan Braun MVP campaign round two. It also means they lose around 50 home runs, 120 RBIs, and millions of dollars in revenue.
The Brewers appear to be out of the running for their own superstar which will cost them immensely down the road.
The Texas Rangers, of all the perennial powerhouses in baseball, may be in the most trouble. They are losing their ace C.J. Wilson to free agency, and their star outfielder Josh Hamilton wants an extension.
They are knee deep in the winter meetings without many options. They are in trade talks with the Red Sox, what for we do not know yet. They also made that interesting move converting their closer Neftali Feliz to a starting role nearly a month ago.
Losing C.J. Wilson will be a regret, but an inevitable one nonetheless. They definitely need to restructure and extend Hamilton's contract and they need to pursue Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder aggressively while putting in calls for starting pitching.
If they don't they'll find themselves in trouble, and regret.
The Yankees successful 2011 was expected given the plethora of talent on every inch of their roster. Minus the disappearance of A.J. Burnett throughout most of the season and the injuries to Alex Rodriguez the season went fairly well for the Bronx Bombers.
This off season though, they have to realize that they are old. They resigned C.C. Sabathia but now owe him in addition to Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez trucks full of money.
They have the shakiest five-man rotation and everyone knows it. Considering they are the Yankees, something can be done and will be done I'm sure.
Hiroki Kuroda is on the table as a free agent as is Gio Gonzalez via trade. If the Yankees lose out on C.J. WIlson and do not pick up another starter or two elsewhere, it will come back to haunt them midway through the 2012 season.
The Philadelphia Phillies met their match this postseason in the form of the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite their nearly flawless regular season in which they won 102 games, they came up short in October when it matters most.
They jumped right onto the "let's get better" train this offseason signing Jonathan Pabelbon and now it looks as if they are fine losing Jimmy Rollings because there is an unhappy shortstop down there in Miami by the name of Hanley Ramirez.
There isn't much the Phillies need to do, nor much they will end up regretting. They need to encourage their guys (the majority of whom are older) to get some rest, heal up, and help Ryan Howard find his swing again. Other than that, they should be fine heading into spring 2012.